What is Biofeedback?
As spiritual beings having a human experience, we have all used biofeedback. We have used it every time we take our temperature or weighed ourselves on a scale. The thermometer tells you if your temperature is elevated. The scale measures our weight. Both devices “feed back” information about your body’s condition. The information assists us to take step to improve the condition.
Biofeedback machines act as a sixth sense which allows us to be privy to the activity going on inside our bodies. For example, electrical signals in the muscles can be translated into a form that patients can detect. The activity noted can trigger a flashing light bulb or activate a beeper every time muscles grow more tense. If a person wants to relax tense muscles, they try to slow down the flashing or beeping.
How is Biofeedback Used Today?
Biofeedback techniques grew out of the early laboratory procedures in the 1960’s. Biofeedback techniques are now widely used to treat many conditions. These include:
Migraine headaches and tension headaches
Many other types of pain
Digestive system disorders
Low blood pressure and High blood pressure
Movement disorders, paralysis
Internists, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and dentists all rely on biofeedback. Patients usually are taught some form of relaxation exercise. Some learn to identify the circumstances that trigger their symptoms. They may also be taught how to avoid or cope with these stressful events. Most are encouraged to change their habits, and some are trained in techniques for gaining such self-control. Biofeedback is not magic. It cannot cure disease or by itself make a person healthy. Biofeedback is a tool, one of many available to health care professionals. Thoughts, behaviors, and feelings profoundly influence our physical health.
How Does Biofeedback Work?
Scientists cannot yet explain how biofeedback works. Most patients who benefit from biofeedback are trained to relax and modify their behavior. Most scientists research has proven relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders, especially those brought on or made worse by stress. It is well-known about the effects stress has on the body. Stress produces strong emotions. Many of these responses to stress are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, the network of nerve tissues that helps prepare the body to meet emergencies by “flight or fight.”
Imagine if you get angry at your boss, your body may prepare to fight. You try to ignore the angry feelings to keep your job. Life situations such as the one above and the stress that comes with it can make you sick. Your body will automatically prepare for action, but you cannot act. We all differ in our response to stressors. In some, one function, such as blood pressure, becomes more active while others remain normal. Experts report that our physical responses to stress can become habitual. Upon repeated body arousal due to stress, one or more functions may become permanently overactive and yields actual damage to body tissues.
Biofeedback is often aimed at changing our reactions to stress that can cause pain or disease. Feedback of physical responses such as skin temperature and muscle tension provides information to help patients recognize a relaxed state of being. The feedback signal is a personal concrete way for reducing tension.
The three most commonly used forms of biofeedback therapy are:
•Electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension
•Thermal biofeedback, which measures skin temperature
•Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain wave activity
How many sessions will I need?
Sessions generally lasts up to an hour. The amount of sessions coincide with what a person is being treated for. A person begins to see results within 8 – 10 sessions. The treatment of Raynaud’s disease, incontinence, or headaches require at least 10 weekly sessions and some follow-up sessions if needed. High blood pressure, usually require 20 weekly biofeedback sessions before improvement is seen. A person will be taught relaxation techniques and mental techniques that can be done at home for at least 5 – 10 minutes daily.
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